The Wrong Reason to Hate the Facebook Acquisition of Oculus

… I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.

- Notch

There are plenty of reasons to not like this deal. What does Facebook know about gaming? Real, hardcore gaming? What do they know about this type of hardware? They’re primarily a software company, a social media company, a company whose reputation with games is dubious at best. However, the above statement from Notch, creator of Minecraft, is the absolute wrong reason to hate the deal.

Now, Notch’s statement may not accurately reflect his feeling as they we’re written quickly and, as he admitted on Twitter, while very tired. However, I am sure that the sentiment expressed in his words, even if not accurate for him, may reflect how many of the Kickstarter donators are feeling right now. A feel of betrayal, a bait and switch. At first blush, it’s an understandable emotion to have, but it doesn’t hold up.

When you donate to a Kickstarter you are saying that you want a future for whatever it is you donated to. You want it to exist. By no means does it specify the manner in which that item exists. The donations for the Oculus Rift were not to build the company Oculus, it was to build the Oculus Rift. The company Oculus was just the best way to go about making that happen. And right now, that company sees Facebook as the best way to continue to make the dream of an affordable VR headset a reality. It literally could have been any company in the world that acquired them. Would there be this much vitriol if it were Google? Valve? Right now Facebook has some of the deepest pockets and is itching to spend. Good on Oculus for taking advantage of that opportunity.

Be upset that they didn’t manage to stay independent. Be upset they didn’t get acquired by a gaming company. Be upset they didn’t get acquired by a consumer devices company. But don’t be upset because you feel betrayed; because you weren’t.

Going back to tumblr for all my blogging needs. It’s just simpler this way. Moving over a couple posts from where my other blog so everything is consolidated into one place. I’m going to try and not move around again to other service.

No Facebook, Mobile is Not Tomorrow


It isn’t a matter of Graph Search suffering from a lack of vision or that it isn’t the big technical achievement that it’s billed as (it is by the way), it’s that for Facebook mobile is tomorrow. They even said as much during their presentation. And if the year were 2010 or earlier that way of thinking might be reasonable, but it’s 2013 and the mobile is today. Not only is mobile today, mobile is it. There is nothing else; if you’re not a mobile first company then you aren’t a competitive company plain and simple.

I understand that it’s hard and time consuming to build a product and that at times there is a desire to do a slow rollout as to not absolutely kill your servers and to hopefully catch some bugs in the process. Facebook decided to release Graph Search to desktop users first with a mobile version coming some time in the future. Regardless of whether it’s a product people actually want the mobile version should clearly have been the first to see release if not at the same time. It’s a search, recommendation, and friend list product, which are things that have their greatest consumer value on mobile. If I’m looking for a place to eat and remember my friend suggesting a place they went to, I am not going to get on my computer, log in to Facebook, and then search. I’m going to either text or call my friend; that means use my phone. If I know that Facebook can provide me that information immediately on my phone without having to see if my friend picks up or wait for his response text then I am going to use that. It’s about putting the information where I want to access it not just that it is accessible.

This is where Facebook failed. I hear some bitching about Graph Search as if it is sign of them playing catchup, but just a couple years ago we all eagerly awaited a search product from them. Graph Search is interesting and is an obvious inclusion into Facebook, but what is needed is a major overhaul of what Facebook is and how we use it. Such a design shift has been rumored to be coming soon to mobile along with further timeline-ification of the desktop site. I once wrote that Timeline was Facebook’s big design forward push to creating an emotional attachment with user a la Apple, but Graph Search and “mobile tomorrow” thinking show that Facebook heading down the Microsoft path: universally accepted yet undesirable.

Thanksgiving

It’s been a long and very trying year, but I do still have a lot to be thankful for. I am thankful for my family; we are one less this year. It’s been tough dealing with the loss of my Tita (grandmother in Arabic). Me and her always had a special relationship, I was the only child she ever “raised”. Her other kids, my dad included, were mostly taken care of by servants. It was a different time and a different country altogether. I miss her immensely.

I am thankful for my friends: new, old, and best. I would not have been able deal with even a quarter of the shit I have this year. There are three of you in particular that really made an incredible impact on my life this year and I can never repay you. Thank you.

I am thankful for my job. It’s not a great one or even a glamorous one, but it affords me the ability create pretty much whatever I please and get paid for it. I have learned so much since I began working there; it really has been more of a journey of self-discovery with design.

There is a ton more that I am thankful for, but these are the three I wanted to highlight. I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving, I sure did.

It’s About Culture, Not Talent

I have had both the luxury and shame of never having worked for a software company, but there is one truth about the software industry (and most industry) that everyone eventually learns: culture is key.

It’s all about culture and that is what was at the center of the Forstall and Sinofsky departures. It’s not that either of them were bad at their job, in fact they should both be praised for their accomplishments. Both made their respective OSes the powerhouses that they are today, but they just don’t fit anymore.

In the case of Apple, Forstall was a mini tyrant playing Jobs and it served him well for years. After all, Apple was built on the back of a tyrant, the late Steve Jobs, but that was no longer how Apple worked. Apple has long since transitioned into a company that depends on a team that can execute together. That’s why more and more we saw Jobs bring the heads of different departments to present new products; it was all to transition into a new culture that could exist without Jobs. Forstall’s removal was just a last minute correction.

In the case of Microsoft, Sinofsky owned the Windows product, but cared very little for anything else. Ever wondered why so many Microsoft product seemed disjointed and confused? It’s not by accident, Microsoft was a famously silo’d company structure where product would get developed almost in a vacuum. They are moving away from that with Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox; trying to tie all their platforms and services into one seamless experience across all devices. There is no place for a man unwilling to look beyond self-erected walls of pride in the new Microsoft (except, of course, for Ballmer, but that’s a story for another day).

It doesn’t matter the size of the company or even the type of company, fostering a strong sense of culture makes for happier, harder-working employees and a stronger company.

This is very shocking to me. I knew a lot of popular apps are just HTML5 app masquerading as native, but I would never have though that such a high percentage would actively prefer it. I can understand using it due to the immense familiarity with the web technologies over Objective-C or Java, but I would never recommend it.

The huge problem is that HTML 5 kind of sucks. Don’t misunderstand me, I love it! I am, after all, a web developer, but I know the limitations. Native just gives better performance and it is painfully noticeable. Look no further than when Facebook switches to fully native on iOS. The difference performance is like night and day. Need a more recent example? Tumblr just updated its iOS offering to fully native today as well and it’s gorgeous and blazing fast. HTML 5 is not there yet, it will eventually get there, though, I’m sure.

I understand, we developers are lazy assholes, but we can be bothered to both use the best tools for a given job and to impress. I’m not a mobile app developer and probably wont be, but should I try my hand at it you can be assured its going to be a dive into Objective-C and I already know Java if I felt like going the Android route. If you’re going to use HTML 5, then do what I do and make a mobile web app. Want more of a wow factor? Try going fully responsive like Polygon or Information Architects or the upcoming profile pages for ShopSWS’s employees. There are plenty of tools out there than can help make you web app feel much more like a native app: tools like Ratchet and Scrollability.

Star Wars Episode VII: We’re the Problem



Disney bought Lucasfilm and with it Star Wars. Disney wasted no time in announcing that Star Wars episode 7 would come out in 2015. If you’re like me then this is just about the worst news imaginable. Star Wars, the original trilogy, was such a triumph while all other additions to the universe have ranged from middling crap to abysmally horrible. The franchise has lost it’s luster long ago… In a galaxy fa—NO, not doing that—and I just want it to be allowed to die with the little bit of dignity it has left. The problem is that it still makes money and will continue to do so because we’re all a bunch of masochistic assholes. You, me, all of us. We’ll bitch and moan all the way into 2015 about episode 7, but there we’ll be at the midnight showing dropping $10 to have our childhood raped all over again. So it’s no surprise Disney is making another Star Wars. No matter what it is we’ll keep eating up whatever lightsaber-smattered slop they serve us while making comments like, “at least Lucas won’t be directly involved in this one.” Seriously though, guys, at least Lucas won’t be directly involved in this one.

A Forced Resignation Stitched In Faux Leather



Scott Forstall has been let go from apple and while I’ll miss his eyes bugging out during his many hyperbolic monologues it seems that Apple is glad to be rid of him.

“Forstall was effectively a component of friction in Apple’s otherwise very collaborative senior management structure.”

Charlie Wolf, an analyst at Needham & Co.
Scott Forstall was the man behind iOS and a champion for skeumorphic design. With his departing, Jony Ive will be taking over Human Interface which means that there is a future for iOS where skeumorphism is just a distant memory from yesteryear. I’m very curious to see where Jony will take iOS in the future and to see how long until his influence will be felt. Whatever it is, finally there will software worthy of gorgeous hardware Apple is known for.

It has often seemed like it would be battle between Forstall and Ive as heir apparent to Jobs; Ive with his exacting designs and demand for physical perfection and Forstall with his strict and far reaching management style. For now it seems that Ive has won and that’s good news. Apple is a company built on the back of a visionary. Tim Cook is a great CEO and will undoubtedly ensure the continuance of Apple’s dominance in mobile and growth in laptops/desktops, but he is no visionary. He recognizes that and doesn’t pretend to be and that’s why he needs someone like Ive to be in control of both hardware and software. Sure, some might say that he doesn’t know software, well it’s not like Forstall knew hardware, but Ive knows human interaction. What is more human than holding something, Ive understands this and that is why every new iteration of iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac is a triumph to behold and to touch. This skill can and will translate to software. Faux leather is just as bad in real life as it is in software.

Personally I would love to see the simple, clean minimalism from the new iTunes throughout iOS or even to see how Loren Brichter might tackle the the iOS home screen. Let the iOS 7 rumors flow!

The iPad Mini: It’s The Wrong Price, Stupid

This Apple event was really disappointing as far as the iPad is concerned. The 4th generation iPad is a marginal improvement over the existing model, but that’s to be expected. The failure solely rests with the iPad mini. While it’s great that there is a smaller version of the iPad, which is very appealing to me, it’s ruined by it’s pricing. $329.99 is just moronic. Sure, it’ll sell like hot cakes, but the iPad mini was set to completely wipe out the only successful form factor for Android tablets if it just came out at $299.99 or lower.

Why $299.99 instead of $329.99? After all it is only a $30 difference. Because someone looking at a $199.99 Nexus 7 and a $299.99 iPad mini see a $100 difference, but they see $200 difference between $199.99 and $329.99. They know it’s not really a $200 difference, but seeing the 3 just moved the iPad into a completely different bracket of affordability.

Aside from that, it’s just not a fun product. I was really expecting there to be colors. I would still get black or white myself, but colors mean a huge deal to some people. Look no further than the iPod. Then there was the depressing iBooks update. Not really worthy of a full point update in my opinion. I can infinite scroll, big whoop.

However, new MacBooks and iMacs look very nice. Nice and expensive.

P.S.
Where the fuck is the new iTunes?